Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

With a new administration in Washington it will be a challenge to get the 'liberals' to hold Biden-Harris to the few 'progressive promises' they made during their campaign. Biden is bringing back many of Bush's neo-cons to head his foreign policy. I'll be on this case without hesitation.

Friday, June 15, 2007



I'm having a great time reading all of these comments. There are plenty more in the stack so looks like this will continue for awhile. Hope you enjoy them too. (If you are wondering about the inconsistent spacing between letters I can't get this damn program to react right!)


- A wonderful article with one big exception. Your last point has it all backwards. Instead of people coming to meet “activists" and becoming "friends with them," activists should be trying to meet people and become friends with them. The onus is on us, as activists, to engage others, to become friends with them, and in the process "radicalize” them.
Most everyday folks have never met an activist. By that I mean someone, like you, who has dedicated his life to ending the evil "system" that dominates us. It is your responsibility to bring your life, and the truths that you feel so deeply, to others. True "missionaries" don't wait for people to come to them. Instead, they integrate their lives with those they are trying to "convert," and in the process teach, and hopefully reach, them.
I'm a long-time activist, who has done everything from licking envelopes to short stays in institutions of incarceration during my "activist" life. And I say strongly to you (and anyone who will listen) that the biggest failure on the part of activists I've known is that they did not aggressively "go to the people." Instead, they've waited for the people to come to them. There has never been a revolutionary movement in history, from Christianity to the Bolsheviks, where it happened that way.

David Victor

- Thanks for your succinct and insightful post. It's so good to read someone in the peace movement actually connecting U.S. militarism to its origins in expropriating the continent from its indigenous inhabitants. However, you lost me at Step 4:"When you have lost your democracy then what do the citizens do? They must fight (non-violently) to take it back." I hear some version of this, the call to "take back democracy," in everything I read, from radical anarchists to the right wing of the Democratic Party. It's a cult like mantra. What democracy was there ever to take BACK? You tell me when democracy prevailed and oligarchy was not in control in this country. Even for the majority of whites, much less people of color, democracy has never been a part of the US political economy, unless you reduce "democracy" to voting. I think it must be said that our historical project is to CREATE democracy in the United States.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, California

- This is very thought out and helpful - Thanks! It is hard to act these days because the weight of it all is just so overwhelming. Some days I want to do something and some days it just seems insurmountable. You are right it is no longer the Bush administration, it is our whole government. I read and am fairly knowledgeable (compared to the general public). Yet I have become stuck on how to move forward. I have stood with signs off and on since the 60's. I have met some of the most wonderful people in the world standing shoulder to shoulder and expressing ourselves and it has enriched my life so much. But, I don't think standing with signs is going to move this government or change it. So, I would be helped by you and others who have ideas about what we can actually do . . .

Steffie Belcher, Maine

- Thanks Bruce, one of the best-written pieces I've read in a while - about to put to the front of Peace Action Maine's site.

Danny Muller, Portland, ME

- Think you forgot the big way to stop the war: unhook yourself from the daydream that the Democratic Party will do something. Build a movement, not something that begs the Dems to listen. Every year. Year after year.

Vicky Myers, Doylestown, Pa.

- The primary reason the anti-war movement in America is fairly impotent is because the folks who head the anti-war organizations are reticent to criticize the true power behind this particular war: the Zionists. This war is primarily for Israel, and the Zionists who pushed for it.
Dr. James Petras’ extraordinary new book The Power of Israel in the United States documents all this.

Drew Hunkins, Madison, WI

- All large nation states were created through militarism and are held together by the threat of military force. Giving up militaries means dissolution of large nation states. So why not just start talking about dissolving them as the solution to militarism.See on nonviolence and decentralization, woman v. nation state and other great insights, plus how radically decentralized governance could work.

Carol Moore, Washington DC

- I am the author of EXODUS FROM EMPIRE: THE FALL OF AMERICA'S EMPIRE AND THE RISE OF THE GLOBAL COMMUNITY (Pluto Press, 2007) and have contributed a number of suggestions and proposals as to what we do now. In the initial chapters, I offer an historical critique of the American Empire from WWII to the present. In a following chapter I demolish Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilizations thesis" and offer an alternative vision of the "convergence and healing of civilizations"---premised upon the normative teachings of the world's great religions as well as the evolving norms of customary international law. Writing from the perspective of those who live and struggle in the Global South (Africa, Asia, Latin America), I propose a "counter-hegemonic alliance" to the US Empire. We see this trend already evolving in the alliances that are currently being forged by leading left wing Latin American nations such as Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, and Bolivia. We see the development of economic regional alliances emerging not only in Latin America, but also in Southeast Asia and East Asia---with China acting as a driving force for peace and regional economic cooperation. In the final chapters of the book, I expose the "hidden politics of empire" that have led to imperial wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. I stress the importance of a human-rights-based development strategy that leaves out the World Bank and the IMF as the primary vehicles for funding such a program of national and regional development. I conclude EXODUS FROM EMPIRE by noting that Americans must work to build a "Post-Imperial America" or have their nation crushed under the burn of empire and all that is entailed in resurgent militarism and imperial adventures.

Terrence E. Paupp, San Diego, CA

- Thank you for a brilliant survey - most helpful. But there is one scenario that you leave out - perhaps too dreadful to think about? What if Bush and Cheney push the US past the limit by attacking Iran? Or into a financial collapse - whichever is the sooner? We are just beginning to ask these questions in Britain. For if the US goes down, this country goes down with it. So we have a shared problem.Trauma is at least 50% probable. What to do about it - I haven't a clue. I just think it is time, trans-Atlantically, to ask the question.

Peter Cadogan, Britain

- Find like-minded people we can promote to local office - and beyond. Find the Peace we wish to see for the world within ourselves, i.e.: BE the change we want to see. In my humble opinion, the peace movement suffers from too many, too angry people - which is perhaps the source of the excessive EGO. Yes, we need to know what's happening, and feel the outrage - but channel that outrage into constructive, RESPECTFUL action. COMMIT time, energy, and money? Once a day, once a month, once a year, once an event? Recognize that others cannot do it for us....And don't fear involvement in peace issues: we'll be in good company.

Val Bryant, Winter Springs, FL

- This email is in response to your "A 10-Step Plan for Antiwar Activists". I'm sure you are aware of the Military-Industrial complex that Eisenhower warned the American people about. My thoughts can be found at where I discuss the Military-Industrial-Media-Educational-Financial-Entertainment-Congressional-Executive-$ complex. Unfortunately, Americans can't/won't recognize it as being the problem. How many people show up with 'Close This Base" signs when the Pentagon announces a base closing somewhere in the US? Your Step # 9 might help.
I hope you do the Google searches I suggest at the end of the free press email to discover how many American Blue Chip companies helped the Third Reich of WW II. If you are not aware of the Bush family history I suggest the link involving Prescott Bush's role in supporting Hitler.

Ron Brown

- I appreciate and resonate with the piece of your writing that was sent to me this morning.
I am a high-energy retiree with time and passion but, in order to work effectively and joyfully for a healthy and happy world, I want and need to be working with others. Strangely enough, in this liberal state and community, I have not been able to find a local group to work with. The Vermont impeachment effort is doing wonderful work, but they are far away and pretty overextended, so I haven't yet been able to find a way to connect with them except at a few large events.
I am guessing that a structure of local groups, networking with each other and informed by those who are interested and effective at that kind of work, would help move things forward -- in other words, I might not be alone with this need. I could be doing much more. I want to be doing much more. But I can't figure out how.

Judy Zemel, Vermont

- I became an activist in 1958 with the birth of my first child. We were still testing bombs in the atmosphere and I realized that if I didn't do something we would all be dead without there ever being a war. Our local progressive alliance is holding seminars on global warming on Thursday nights during the month of June. Last night we showed "An Inconvenient Truth". After viewing the film for a second time, I felt while Al Gore has gotten the message about what we're doing to the earth but I had the feeling that if we just focus on global warming we are missing the boat. While meditating this morning I was thinking about the 60's, Martin Luther King and non-violence. During my breakfast I turned on the computer and found your article. As you can imagine, it felt like an answer to a prayer. I will be 79 next October 9 (John Lennon was born on my birthday) and I have been an activist since 1958. I know you are right and I hope we can make it happen.

Dori Dangerfield (Dorothy Shays -yes my lineage goes back to the Shays Rebellion - Dangerfield)

- This was forwarded to me by a friend.
I agree with the overall premise – the problems are much deeper than Bush, and go to the heart of who we are as a country.
But I also know, from my reading of history, that this is not a completely nonpartisan or bi-partisan problem. There really is a party that in the last 100 years, more often than the other party, has stood up for the little guy, resisted wars rather than provoked them, signed global treaties and even honored them, and has a generally better record on human rights than the other one.
To pretend the blame is shared equally is not entirely accurate, and I’ve just got this thing for accuracy.
But I commend you certainly for seeing beyond the mainstream mishmash of hogwash and realizing that the true story of America is much more unpleasant than many are willing to admit. So that’s a big step forward.

Lisa Pease

- We have a lot to do. Many of us are supporting Dennis Kucinick. He may be an also ran to the pundits but he is the only one that believes peace is possible. The big three Clinton, Obama and Roberts are business as usual candidates. The July 1st Rally at Kennebunkport will be a good start to see a Chaney-Bush impeachment with a Nationwide Citizen demand for justice. Dennis will be there. Years ago I learned to repeat this statement, Whether skies are sunny or gray and what ever life sends my way I'm going to be happy today. It has helped me fight my way out of anger, depression and worry. I am with you Bruce but my limited retirement income keeps me from donating to the many good causes.

Wilbur Rhodes, Kittery, ME

- I dont see a single proactive ACTION on your list. just more passive, comfortably american "realizations" about "our problem'. the strongest thing you advocate is "turning off the TV".
..don't offend anyone, don't demand sacrifice, "begin to think" - but don't DO anything, just more rumination.... "learn to trust and have fun"?! that's why we have endless paris hilton.
May i reiterate? we are weeks away from a catastrophic attack on iran and 7 yrs into this terror-coup mess. the time to "begin to think" and meditate for peace are LONG OVER.
Your Plan sounds like the prescription we get from the Bush folks and it all amounts to the same: no ACTION- nothing is done to stop the collapse. and bitchin' & bloggin' is not an action.
Fantasy without action is hallucination! Please write a plan of what to DO, not what to think or to feel.

TTP Wilson, New York City

- Thank you for your piece: "What Do We Do Now: A Ten Step Plan For Antiwar Activists".
I'm sure you think it beyond the scope of the piece, or implied in step # 1 (you made an excellent point by the way), but I noticed no SPECIFIC mention of voting in direct competition with the Democrat/Republicans in the general election via an independent or third party candidate. Also missing was any mention of the denial of ballot access and exclusion from debates. From these issues spring arguably ALL of our troubles. That they are not front and center in the minds of antiwar activists (and every other kind of activist) is the scandal of our time.
How's this for step #11? We should be mature enough to admit that Ralph Nader was right all along. Vote for war and you get war. Vote for peace and you get peace (and NO, you don't have to win to leverage power!). Only then will we be on step #1.
Thank You and Good Luck.

Eric Peters


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